It was D Dub’s fault for mentioning Lonesome Dove to me. He said he felt the urge to read it again. It had been long enough for both of us so, unable to find a copy in my bookshelves, I quickly bought a used copy.
Reading Lonesome Dove is a serious undertaking. The miserably small-print paperback is 945 pages long and contains some 365,712 words. My column usually hovers around 700 words. Reading Lonesome Dove would be like reading a column of mine 522 times in a row, which I assume would be delightful.
I don’t read many books a second time. I am sure I read it right away when it was first published in 1985. The characters soon grow on you and when the TV series was aired in 1989 I was one of the 26 million people who watched it. I am also one of the millions who never really forgot it either. It was a very successful Western when Westerns were no longer popular.
The TV series put faces on the characters I had come to know. Words spoken in the movie still stick in the minds of many. Even today it is not uncommon for someone to quote Gus.
I am not familiar with many movie stars. I would hardly recognize any movie stars if they walked into my home, but if I saw Robert Duvall I would likely say, “By golly, there is Gus.” I probably would think of Captain Call if I saw Tommy Lee Jones but would never think of his proper name. Gus’s hat shape even became popular. Pick up a western catalog and you will see Gus hats pictured.
I was well into the book the second time when I realized I had met July Johnson’s deputy, Roscoe, a couple years ago. I found Barry Corbin a very likeable fellow and had a nice visit with him. I remembered he had starred in the TV show Northern Exposure, but had forgotten he had been in Lonesome Dove. I didn’t ask him anything about his movie career but found him as pleasant to visit with as any guy I would meet at a sale barn.
I was almost surprised to find myself so engrossed with the book the second time. I soon began to feel I knew the characters personally. The author described them so well I could almost smell some of them. I grew fond of several, sympathized with some, admired a couple, and disliked a few instantly.
I read well into the night for days. The book sucked me in again. I was anxious to find out what each page or chapter would reveal. I had forgotten enough of the story to eagerly see how the events would unfold.
It is not always a very uplifting read. I got a bit tired of having my favorites get killed. I began to desperately wish Lorena would make it to San Francisco. I was disgusted with the author when the barefoot girl who could kill rabbits with a rock met such a dismal end. I always enjoyed the author’s writing style.
Blue Duck, the evil Comanchero, was especially hateful. One of the few things I really remembered about the TV series was when Blue Duck met his end and looked forward to reading it in the book.
Although Blue Duck was despicable, I named one of my favorite pickups, a 1989 Dodge Diesel one-tonner after him. I guess I named it Blue Duck because it was blue, big, and tough. My Blue Duck was never bad to me, but it did have a somewhat cruel nature. I personally saw Blue Duck kill two deer, a pheasant, and a wild turkey.
I suppose the book never really ended. It is fiction, a great read and the characters are authentic enough to make you think it may be real.
I hope Newt’s descendants are still raising cattle in Montana.